Our Story

Our Guiding Compass

Learning from other cultures through beautiful tools for living, creating jobs for local partners, and supporting women worldwide.

What Is Abroad Modern?

We are a women-owned, impact-driven lifestyle shop offering modern global goods impeccably designed for the discerning home. Experience far-off lands through their unique objects of use and the stories of the people who make them.

It all began with a rickshaw…

rickshaw

On the first day of a three-week trip to India, a driver named Sajid Hussain picked me and my companions up from the Udaipur airport to take us on a tour of the city. We wandered huge markets and tiny streets, awed by the array of wares for sale, from the kaleidoscopic handicrafts in the tourist markets to the more utilitarian objects -- humble, yet striking -- in the stalls off the main thoroughfare.

One day led to the next, and suddenly we’d spent a week with Sajid. We met his family, who taught us how to make chapati in their kitchen. Before I even left, I knew I'd be back.

Several months after my return, Sajid's cranky old rickshaw broke down beyond repair. I knew the economic peril that a blown engine can cause a hardworking family in India. I began a crowdfund for a used rickshaw (goal met, rickshaw procured!), but that was a Band-aid solution that didn't address Sajid's need for a fair and reliable revenue stream.

The First Iteration of Abroad Modern

Lightbulb moment! I could open a shop of my own, source products from India, and employ Sajid as a buyer! With shockingly little more thought, I bought a ticket to Udaipur, secured a one-month lease at Bow Market in Somerville, MA, and set to work. Abroad Modern opened its doors in July 2019.

After a successful popup in Somerville, I moved my big idea to the smallest commercial space in Cambridge, the beloved O'Reilly Spite House, giving Abroad Modern a permanent home; a destination for GOOD.

Abroad Modern Today

abroad modern storefront

As if by fate, Abroad Modern and Giving Joy, a social enterprise selling women-made African accessories to fund micro-grants for female entrepreneurs worldwide, popped up at Bow Market the very same week. The owner, Joy Kolin, and I immediately recognized in one another similar passions for travel, mission-driven retail, and products with compelling stories.

After our auspicious meeting, we collaborated on several joint initiatives. In the summer of 2020, we officially entered into co-ownership of Abroad Modern and restructured Giving Joy as a beneficiary of the newly incorporated business.

Today, Abroad Modern has expanded its catalogue of goods, global partnerships, and social good initiatives. Our artisan-made tools and housewares showcase modern motifs using time-honored, geographically specific methods. Rwandan and Ugandan basket-making techniques shine through bold patterns. Hand-loomed khadis and ikats from India are transformed into on-trend table linens. In Jaipur, master kantha embroiderers use delicate stitches passed down for generations to create color-blocked quilts. And terra cotta traditions from Gujarat to Mexico and beyond are employed to form vessels with fashion-forward silhouettes.

What Is Giving Joy?

Giving Joy is a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that strengthens and inspires women entrepreneurship worldwide. Through her 20 years in international development, traveling to over 60 countries, its founder, Joy Kolin, has witnessed the immense influence women have to create positive change within their families and communities.

Joy wanted to harness that power by giving women access to small grants that propel their business or organization and, more importantly, boost their confidence. In 2018, Joy created the Giving Joy micro-grants program. Applicants from any country, across any trade or industry, can apply for a one-time grant between $250 and $500. To date, Giving Joy has awarded 30 grants to women and women-led organizations in Afghanistan, Cameroon, Kenya, India, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda and the United States (in Massachusetts, Indiana, Illinois, Mississippi, Washington State and Virginia).

We look forward to traveling the globe together to source new wares and offer new cultural events in our brand new, bigger storefront.

Come visit us at 292 Concord Ave. in Cambridge, MA, or explore our beautiful and functional artisan pieces online.

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